The Triclenium Affair: Love, Power, and Betrayal in the Upper Room
By Gregory W. Hamilton, President
Northwest Religious Liberty Association
In revisiting Christ's complex relationship with Judas, we discover how Judas's attempt to manage what he believed was Christ's revolutionary movement to establish His kingdom on Earth mirrors contemporary religious and political attitudes and strategies in the United States, and how this is leading many Christians, in the long run, to unwittingly betray Christ when understood in the larger prophetic scheme of things.
Starting with the Last Supper in John 13 and Luke 22 where Jesus exposes Judas as a traitor, then flashing back to John 6 where Judas had inspired the teeming multitude to force him to accept the throne after Christ had miraculously fed them with five small loaves and two small fishes, and ending with Matthew 27 when Judas hangs himself and is buried in a field reserved for strangers, this sermon attempts to survey the competitive struggle between Christ and Judas (not to mention priests, Pharisees, rabbis, scribes, Herodians, and other voices) for the hearts and minds of Christ’s disciples and the people of Israel, over the true meaning of the nature of God’s kingdom. Today’s battle is no different! Those who seek to establish Christ’s kingdom on Earth are numerous. No matter how well-intentioned or disguised, absolute power is the holy grail of their cause, the holy grail of their end game strategy.
The Golden Legend of Judas
“Legend fills up the silence of the Gospels concerning Judas. He is said to have been a foredoomed wretch, whose mother received warning of what he would be in a dream before his birth. To avoid this, his parents enclosed him in a chest, and flung him into the sea. The sea cast him upon the shore in the domain of a king and queen who adopted him as their own son. Malignant from his birth, he killed a foster brother, fled to Judea, and became a page to Pontius Pilate. He commits many monstrous crimes, is at length filled with contrition and terror, and flees to Christ for peace” (Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, #2750; see also the amazing book Pontius Pilate by Ann Wroe, 1999, pp. 127-35).
The Biblical Judas
This legend is like many legends—a fable not worthy of its salt. I picture Judas as a tall distinguished-looking man as he presented himself to Jesus one day—a man of some influence. “I will follow You wherever You go,” he said. Anyone looking on would have advised Jesus in the affirmative. You can just hear the other disciples saying to themselves: “This man has great leadership ability and a bright mind. He has a reputation for being economically and politically savvy, and will definitely be an asset to Christ’s messianic revolution!” On the flip side, a skeptical and perhaps more cautious, but less polite way to put it: “This is a tall, handsome, dude and a first rate ‘Slick Willy’ of a politician!”
Certainly Jesus understood this when he responded to Judas’ self-qualifying invitation to voluntarily join His band of chosen followers: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). Jesus knew that Judas was seeking earthly position, honor, and riches; and that He had none to offer.
Jesus did not turn him away, however. Jesus accepted Judas as His personal assignment, so to speak, and gave him a chance to learn of Him. When Jesus drew His disciples close to ordain them for the gospel ministry, Judas was there. During Jesus’ entire ministry, Judas remained by His side, a partially converted man whose heart straddled both the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world!
This imposing, handsome, swaggering, ever confident, clever, proud, and opinionated dude considered himself a terrific executive, one even able to manage Christ’s revolution.
CHRIST — A Popular Revolutionary Figure to the Disciples
“In understanding the motives which led the twelve to leave all and follow him, it is important to stress the fact that they joined his company during the early days of Jesus’ popularity. . . . Jesus was riding a rising tide of public favor when he called them. He was having no difficulty in securing followers.” (Harry Emerson Fosdick, The Man From Nazareth, p. 166).
THE CALLING: In regard to Judas, however, instead of Christ handpicking him as He did with the other eleven disciples, Judas volunteered his skills. He volunteered his services as an expert in management, and was drawn to Jesus for his own personal and political advantage—for what he could get out of Jesus. This is a key point, because it helps us to understand how Judas viewed Jesus and His claim to be the Son of God, the Messiah, during His short 3 ½ year ministry.
TREASURER — Managing the Kingdom for Christ
Other than the betrayal of Christ, the most significant moment of Judas’ life depicted in the Gospels is when he rebuked Mary for anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume, claiming that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. The real reason was that Judas had a habit of rewarding himself by dipping into what came in to the treasury. As the treasurer of Christ’s revolutionary kingdom movement he believed that he deserved it. He saw himself as indispensable—as Christ’s most valuable player so to speak. Without his management skills to run Christ’s political campaign, so as to win the hearts and minds of the people, it would utterly fail. (See John 12:4-6). This incident provides one of the most revealing portrayals of Judas’ character.
As it is today with many religious leaders in America, the lure of managing the Kingdom for Christ was a very real temptation to Judas—a temptation that he fully succumbed to, leading him toward the quest for political power and the eventual betrayal of Christ. The same scenario is transpiring today and is all too common in the corrupt religious and political worlds we live in. The thirst for wealth, influence, and political power knows no end.
I. The Triclenium Affair in the Upper Room
- Upper Room = Kataluma or guest room at a Jerusalem Inn
- Seating of Christ & disciples at Triclenium table
- Love, power, and betrayal (emphasize throughout)
The Triclenium Table (about 1 ft. from the ground)
“When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me’” (Matthew 26:20-21).
Door — Door Man — Designated Servant / Quarters
Seating: John is leaning on Christ’s chest and Judas is seated off of Christ’s left shoulder in a shadowy position almost to His back. Peter is seated at the other end of the table, near the door and the servant quarters. Peter was incensed that Jesus had John and Judas seated at the head of the table with Him. Peter knew that he was now obligated to wash everyone’s feet, thus why he initially insisted that Christ should not wash his feet. (John 13:1-11)
It seems apparent that either Christ had the disciples seated in their respective places at the table, or Peter was so busy making last minute arrangements with the Innkeeper that he ended up with the last seat, the servant’s place at the table. (???)
Either way, this was the closest Judas would ever come to be seated to Christ again. He was seated in a most favored position, a position of power that was not being afforded to any of the disciples except John the Beloved.
But it was here, in this dramatic setting, that Jesus chose to expose Judas and his intentions to betray Him before the night was over.
Love, Power, and Betrayal (John 13:12-17)
Jesus then does something astonishing to the disciples. Seated as He was at the head of the table in a position of supreme authority, He breaks precious Jewish custom by getting up from the table, taking off his outer clothing, and washing each of the disciples’ feet as if He were the designated servant in the room. Remember, this was Peter’s designated position that evening.
This was not an act of spontaneity, but a calculated act of love by Christ, demonstrating to His disciples that loving one another in an unselfish manner was of supreme importance and not the contest between them as to who was going to be the greatest in His kingdom.
Power — “Who Is the Greatest?”
In a masterful way, however, Jesus was trying to teach them an important lesson about the corruptive and self-destructive nature of power more than He was about love.
[Verse 12] “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. [Verse 13] You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. [Verse 14] Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. [Verse 15] I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. [Verse 16] I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. [Verse 17] Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’”
[Verse 27] “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. [Verse 28] You are those who have stood by me in my trials. [Verse 29] And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, [Verse 30] so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
key point: When Jesus said that “no servant is greater than his master” he was teaching the disciples a simple lesson about human nature. In addition to stating the obvious by connecting what He had just done for them by washing their feet, Jesus was illustrating that the quest to become the greatest knew no bounds—that He may be revered, honored, and worshipped today, but despised and rejected the next, with acts of denial and betrayal to follow! Essentially speaking, those who sought for worldly power did not, and would not, truly understand why He had come into the world—to die for their sins—nor understand the true nature of His kingdom. This would completely blind them and cause them to be deceived by Satan.
We know that in the same chapter, verses 31-38, Jesus tells Peter that he would deny Him three times that very night. And in verses 21-30 Jesus exposes Judas’ intent to betray Him. After Christ’s arrest by the Roman soldiers as a result of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus predicts that the disciples would scatter and go their separate ways in order to save themselves (John 16:32).
Judas was a perfect case in point, and it was this central point that Jesus was trying to make: that the lust for power knew no bounds and ultimately led to treachery and betrayal, which is typical in the real political world that we live in, and in the world that Christ lived.
We are told in The Desire of Ages (page 719) that it was Judas who continually agitated the question among the disciples as to who would be the greatest in their revolutionary earthly kingdom. This created lots of dissension, bickering, and strife among them. Such questions as who would be Secretary of State, Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Chief of Staff, etc.—which is typical in today’s political campaigns (i.e., rewards of undying loyalty)—absorbed their attention. It was a passion that they fed upon incessantly, and Judas was there to reinforce this in their minds and hearts. So absorbed were they with this question that they had a hard time understanding almost everything Christ had ever taught them. (It would not be until they reconvened in the Upper Room, when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them as a result of seeking to be united, putting away all dissension—the dissension that Judas had continually agitated before his suicide death—that they truly understood the nature of Christ’s mission.)
It is in this respect that Jesus was continually competing with Judas—including priests, Pharisees, rabbis, Herodians, and other voices—for the hearts and minds of His own disciples, and the people of Israel in general, when it came to helping them understand the true nature and meaning of His mission, of His kingdom.
From the day of His baptism at the hands of John the Baptist in the Jordan River where John proclaimed “Behold the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), to His trial before Pilate, where Jesus had proclaimed that “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), Jesus had focused his entire mission and message on what His kingdom was about and where it was located. He said to Pilate, “If [my kingdom were of this world], my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (ibid.).
Just as this same message is ignored today by religious leaders on both the left and right of the political spectrum, so too was this message, and the plain meaning behind it, ignored for 3 ½ years, the length of Christ’s short ministry on Earth!
In March of last year (2006), an amazing archeological discovery was made in the caves of Egypt. (See brief outline below.) The Gospel of Judas, a Gnostic gospel written shortly after Christ’s crucifixion and Judas’ suicide hanging.
Despite the fact that this discovery only perpetuates a heretical account of Judas’ life and his relationship with Jesus, it nevertheless demonstrates the truth that Judas was power hungry.
The Gospel of Judas—lost for 1,600 years, Gnostic gospel
- FOX News rated it as the 10th biggest story of 2006.
- A brother of Judas was purportedly the author.
- Jesus says to Judas: “Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star.”
- Jesus supposedly asks Judas to betray Him, as if Christ’s sacrifice was all planned out by them together.
- Instead of being portrayed as a villain, Judas is a hero. It comes close to portraying Judas as the Savior of the disciples, of the world, of the universe, and of heaven itself!
- In Gnostic tradition, Jesus is portrayed as merely a good man, as a spirit; not the Divine Son of God.
- Jesus supposedly says to Judas that Judas would rule over the disciples in heaven, and that Judas was immortal, having the power to resurrect himself.
- True to Judas’ vision and expectations of Christ’s revolutionary movement, instead of a persecuted church it portrays the Christian Church as a triumphant church ruling the world for 1,000 years with Judas as its leader. It portrays Jesus as a political savior, with Judas as its leader and/or mastermind behind its success.
What makes this discovery so interesting is the fact that it is truly delusional and, as we shall see, a telling reminder that many religious leaders today share the same delusion that Judas did so many years ago. The Gospel of Judas should serve as a rebuke, awakening them to the false teachings that they regularly put forward, both in print, their pulpits, and in the media, in regard to the 1,000 year millennium where they think they will rule on Earth with Christ, and how this is leading them and their millions of followers down the road toward the betrayal of Christ and His true followers “who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Revelation 14:12/NASB).
What and who am I speaking of? We will get to that. We must first examine what led Judas to betray Christ to understand the modern-day parallel.
Did Judas ever truly view Jesus as the Divine Son of God? As with many of the people of Israel, especially the religious leaders, did his lust for earthly power and glory cloud every aspect of his thinking, his emotions, and his spiritual life? As we shall see, Judas’ road to betrayal is instructive to us in these last days.
II. The Road to Betrayal (John 6 & Desire of Ages, pp. 377-394)
- The Crisis in Galilee—where Judas lost confidence in Jesus
- A crisis over the very identity of Christ—of faith & doctrine
- A crisis over the very nature of Christ’s mission (kingdom)
- Jesus seen as a political, economic, and military Savior, nothing more
- 1,000-year millennium doctrine & today’s road to betrayal
The Feeding of Five Thousand Men (plus women and children)
key text: “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (John 6:14, 15).
Setting the Stage
In his book Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World (the hottest Christian book on the market in 2006), Pastor John Hagee of the Cornerstone mega-church in San Antonio, Texas, asks the question: “Why was Jesus considered too dangerous to live by the Roman government?” His response is an astute one: “Any man who could feed five thousand people with the contents of a boy’s sack lunch could feed an army. Anyone who could heal the injured and raise the dead could marshal legions of zealots to wage war against imperial Rome, which believed its people could not be permanently injured or killed” (p. 51).
Pastor Hagee’s comments are very similar to the ones found in the book The Desire of Ages, page 377:
“All day the conviction has strengthened. That crowning act is assurance that the long-looked-for Deliverer is among them. The hopes of the people rise higher and higher. This is He who will make Judea an earthly paradise, a land flowing with milk and honey. He can satisfy every desire. He can break the power of the hated Romans. He can deliver Judah and Jerusalem. He can heal the soldiers who are wounded in battle. He can supply whole armies with food. He can conquer the nations, and give to Israel the long-sought dominion.”
We are told in The Desire of Ages, that it was Judas who stirred up the multitudes, who had just been miraculously fed by Christ, to take Him by force and make Him king of Israel (pages 718-719).
The Crisis in Galilee
It should not be surprising, then, that John chapter 6 records that it was Judas and this same multitude who turned away from Christ and rejected Him—Judas eventually, and the multitude immediately. “Christ’s discourse…concerning the bread of life was the turning point in the history of Judas. He heard the words, ‘Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.’ John 6:53. He saw that Christ was offering spiritual rather than worldly good. He regarded himself as farsighted, and thought he could see that Jesus would have no honor, and that He could bestow no high position upon His followers. He determined not to unite himself so closely to Christ but that he could draw away. He would watch. And he did watch” (The Desire of Ages, p. 719).
emphasize: And yet, it was on this very point that Christ prayed earnestly with His Father—that Judas, His disciples, and the multitude would be undeceived. We are told that when Jesus escaped the movement to force Him to become king, he “withdrew again to a mountain by himself [to pray]” (John 6:15). “For hours,” we are told, “He continued pleading with God. Not for Himself but for men were those prayers.” Here Jesus prays for the Religious Right and Left of His day, and for those who were misled by them!
Jesus was very well aware of the complicated and ugly political situation that existed in His time, with Rome as an occupying power and Israel as an insurgent nation desiring to be free and in a position of supreme power as they thought God had promised them in the Scriptures.
It was at this very moment, and on this very crucial matter of importance, that “He prayed for power to reveal to men the divine character of His mission, that Satan might not blind their understanding and pervert their judgment…. In travail and conflict of soul He prayed for His disciples. They were to be grievously tried. Their long-cherished hopes, based on a popular delusion, were to be disappointed in a most painful and humiliating manner. In the place of His exaltation to the throne of David they were to witness His crucifixion. This was to be indeed His true coronation. But they did not discern this, and in consequence strong temptations would come to them [to doubt who He said He was]. Without the Holy Spirit to enlighten the mind and enlarge the comprehension the faith of the disciples would fail. It was painful to Jesus that their conceptions of His kingdom were, to so great a degree, limited to worldly aggrandizement and honor. For them the burden was heavy upon His heart, and He poured out His supplications with bitter agony and tears” (The Desire of Ages, page 379).
emphasize: This event was significant. Why? “When Christ forbade the people to declare Him king, He knew that a turning point in His history was reached. Multitudes who desired to exalt Him to the throne today would turn from Him tomorrow. The disappointment of their selfish ambition would turn their love to hatred, and their praise to curses” (The Desire of Ages, page 383).
“Of those now connected with Him there were many who had been attracted by the hope of a worldly kingdom. These must be undeceived. The deep spiritual teaching in the miracle of the loaves had not been comprehended. This was to be made plain. And this new revelation would bring with it a closer test” (ibid.).
This, of course, also became the turning point for Judas. When Christ explained to the multitude and to His disciples, including Judas, that “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I am come down from heaven’” (John 6:41-42)?
crucial point: Here is evidence that they did not equate Jesus as being the divine Son of God. For them, Jesus was merely a good man, a political and economic savior, so to speak—someone empowered by God to work miracles for their economic, political, and military benefit. They saw in Jesus a clear path to throw Rome from their midst and to conquer the world. They saw Jesus as the One who could bring them peace and economic prosperity like in the days of David and Solomon. This is why Jesus states in verses 26 and 27: “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
It is important to note that the multitude that came out that day represented the most desperate type—the homeless, the poor, the hungry. Harry Emerson Fosdick tells us that at that time there was economic disaster throughout most of Israel, including Jerusalem.
turning point: When Jesus refers to Himself as being the only source of eternal life unless they eat His flesh and blood (see verses 52-59), Judas and the multitude take what He says literally, not realizing that Jesus was speaking about Himself as being the actual Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. He was to literally spill His own flesh and blood for them at Calvary, but they thought He was nuts.
That is why Christ’s disciples thought He was nuts in the Upper Room when He once again referred to His spilt blood and His broken flesh, as if He were going to die. (See Matthew 26:26-29.) All talk of dying and resurrecting, including the notion of coming back again, was pure nonsense to them. Jesus continually talked about this during His entire ministry, yet they stubbornly resisted to accept and comprehend what He was telling them. They thought that if Jesus was the long-looked for Messiah, he could not die. Therefore, there was no need to resurrect and come again. He must instead live and deliver them from the oppressive hand of Rome and conquer the world. This was His destiny!
Even though “Judas had not decided that Jesus was not the Son of God,”—after all, how could he argue against the evidence supplied by all of Christ’s mighty miracles—we are told that “Christ’s oft-repeated statement that His kingdom was not of this world offended [him].” He believed “that if Jesus would not prevent the disciples from carrying out their schemes, the work [i.e., the revolutionary drive for the kingdom] would be more successful…. His heart was open to unbelief, and the enemy supplied thoughts of questioning and rebellion. Why did Jesus dwell so much upon that which was discouraging? Why did He predict trial and persecution for Himself and for His disciples? The prospect of having a high place in the new kingdom had led Judas to espouse the cause of Christ” (The Desire of Ages, page 718). In this sense, Judas was a populist fool, a populist-like politician who was like the unbelieving, undiscerning, unthinking multitude who saw Christ as a political savior, but very little more. If Judas could not become powerful by taking advantage of Christ’s popularity, he wanted nothing to do with Him.
It is at this point that Judas begins to strategize two things: 1) convince the other disciples that Jesus was a fraud, and 2) find a way to force Christ—once and for all—to prove that He is the Messiah but at the same time make a financial profit on the side. This was his point of no return, the road to betrayal and suicide.
I have a book called The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. It is an amazing book, full of historical anecdotes on how to gain power and become powerful. Law #2 reads like this: “Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies. Be wary of friends—they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.” You talk about a strategy from hell, here it is! And Judas embraced it! Judas used the Machiavellian tactic better known as “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Judas saw in the priests of the temple (the Sadducees) an opportunity to force the hands of Christ. They had been the enemy of Christ’s revolutionary movement and his close involvement in it, but now he needed them—or so he thought—as much as they needed him. While Christ was clearly not the enemy in Judas’ mind, the priests and Rome were. The priests had continually courted the favor of Rome because they had kept them in a position of power and influence over the people. Their economic and political status depended on Rome; they gave them their monthly pay-checks and embellished the temple with lots of marble, gold, silver and copper construction and furnishings. So in Judas’ mind, they were part of the problem that Christ’s revolution would have solved in short order. So indeed, “the enemy (priests) of my enemy (Rome) is my friend,” became a realistic operating strategy.
Judas had probably heard about the plot by Jewish leaders to kill Jesus for the good of the nation. He probably heard the actual argument of Caiaphas, the high priest, in rumor-like fashion, passed from individual to individual around Jerusalem and all of Judea. Caiaphas had boldly said to his colleagues at the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Congress) “that it is better for you that one dies for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:50).
Judas had essentially made a deal with the Devil, with Satan, to enrich himself in order to place a death sentence on Christ—a Man he had been loyal to for nearly 3 ½ years! Judas reasoned that “If Jesus really was the Messiah, the people, for whom He had done so much, would rally about Him, and would proclaim Him king.” He thought that “this would forever settle many minds that were now in uncertainty.” Judas truly believed that he would receive “the credit for having placed the king on David’s throne. And this act would secure to him the first position, next to Christ, in the new kingdom” (The Desire of Ages, page 721).
This essentially was an act in which the Grace of God had been forever abandoned by him. As a result of stubbornly refusing to accept the revealed Word of God in his life—God in the flesh—he was led by the spirit of Satan to employ both the arms of the church and state, priests and Roman soldiers, in a united plot, to place a death sentence on the very Son of God. We are told that “it was for a purpose that his character was laid open to the world. It was to be a warning to all who, like him, should betray sacred trusts” (ibid., page 716). Judas had forever slammed the door shut on the Grace of God in his life. He had irreparably injured his own soul.
During Christ’s trial before Caiaphas and Annas, the high priests, Judas had come to realize that Jesus was the divine Son of God and that he had essentially sold his Master to His death. Like the unruly mob and the chief priests at Calvary, which occurred a little later the next day, Judas entreated Christ to deliver Himself. But as The Desire of Ages tells us, “He did not repent.” Instead, “his confession was forced from his guilty soul by an awful sense of condemnation and a looking for of judgment” and that “he felt no deep, heartbreaking grief that he had betrayed the spotless Son of God, and denied the Holy One of Israel” (page 722).
III. Burial Field for Strangers
- Matthew 27:1-10, the field of Aceldama, a fitting but tragic end for Judas. How sad!
IV. Today’s Parallels
- The 1,000 year millennium factor
- Today’s Worldview, the Disciples’ Worldview
- Absolute Power: The Holy Grail of Dominionists
- Key religious leaders and personalities
- Key Spirit of Prophecy quotes
- Optional material—“The Military Factor”
The same attitude and the path that leads to betrayal exists among today’s religious leaders—the idea of establishing Christ’s kingdom for 1,000 years by political, legislative, economic, and military means; in other words, by force. All of these factors are intensively being played out today and it behooves us to take these matters seriously and to view them as relevant—yea, critical—signs of the spiritual and constitutional peril facing our nation and the world prior to Christ’s coming, which is so very soon!
The 1,000 Year Millennium Factor
Before the political, legislative, and military factors are presented, it is important to take into consideration another phenomenon that is taking place among Evangelical Christian leaders. Evangelical leaders, both Protestants and Catholic Evangelicals, have been shelving doctrinal differences and uniting instead on the basis of shared moral, social, cultural, and political values. Most religious and political scholars are calling it “Political Ecumenism.”
One of the interesting facets bringing them together that is doctrinally related, however, is over a fundamental difference that has split pre-millennialists and post-millennialists for a number of years. What is a “pre-millennialist.” A pre-millennialist is someone who believes that Christ’s Second Coming occurs before the 1,000 year prophetic time period described in Revelation 20. As Seventh-day Adventists, for example, we are pre-millennialists. A post-millennialist is someone who believes that Christ’s Second Coming occurs after the 1,000 year prophetic time period.
What is interesting to note here, is that those who emphasize the doctrine of the “Secret Rapture,” like Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in their national bestselling Left Behind book series, are pre-millennialists. They believe that a secret rapture occurs before Christ comes back. They will then supposedly return with Christ at His coming to establish a 1,000 year millennial kingdom reign on Earth. Hal Lindsey’s famous The Late Great Planet Earth book emphasized the same and Dave Hunt’s books have also emphasized this point.
Except for Seventh-day Adventists, the one thing that both pre-millennialists and post-millennialists share in common is that they both believe that the 1,000 year prophetic time period occurs on the Earth and that Christ’s kingdom is established by force, and by Christians who have a godly commitment to making sure that Christ is honored throughout the world by all peoples, in every government, every institution, and in every facet of life.
(We believe in the 1,000 year prophetic time period, but we know from Revelation 20 that this period is spent in Heaven itself, not on Earth. God is so fair, He takes the immense risk of letting His eternally saved people pour over the books of Life and Remembrance to determine whether or not God was fair in His judgments. He gives us the final say in the judgment! That is simply amazing when you think about it!)
The reason why this is important is because this is exactly what Christ prayed for after escaping from those who intended to “make Him king by force,” as John describes in chapter 6:15—that His disciples and the people of Israel would understand the true nature of His mission on Earth. He desperately wanted them to understand that He was not with them to establish an earthly kingdom, but one that reigned in men’s hearts and minds, and prepared them for an eternal kingdom that would not perish.
But this is not what you here from today’s Evangelical leaders. John Hagee writes in his book Jerusalem Countdown: “Lasting peace will not come to Jerusalem until Messiah comes. He will usher in the Golden Age of Peace.” He continues: “The restoration of Jerusalem is a prelude to the return of the Lord…. Let me present this brief summation. In the eternal counsel of almighty God, He has determined to make Jerusalem the decisive issue by which He will deal with the nations of the earth. Those nations who align themselves with God’s purposes for Jerusalem will receive His blessing. But those who follow a policy of opposition to God’s purposes will receive the swift and severe judgment of God without limitation” (pages 51-54).
Dave Hunt, author of Global Peace and the Rise of the Antichrist, argues that “It is essential that the imminent rapture once again become not only the great expectancy and hope of the church . . . but that Christians testify to the world of Christ’s second coming to judge the world and to establish His millennial kingdom that will follow. . . that He would bring peace to this earth . . . by personally reigning on the throne of His father David in Jerusalem. This is man’s only hope!” He continues: “Those who believe in Christ must necessarily oppose and condemn as false and deceitful every attempt to bring ‘peace on earth’ that does not include Jesus Christ as world ruler” (pages 283-289).
Tim LaHaye, co-editor of The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy (2004), states unequivocally that, “When Jesus returns to the earth after the seventieth week of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27), He will destroy the Antichrist and the wicked nations at the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:17-21). He will then rule on the earth for 1,000 years.”
There is no time here to go into the prophecies of Daniel 9 in detail, but clearly the easy point to comprehend is that Tim LaHaye, like so many of his evangelical colleagues, believe that Earth is the place where Christ sets up His kingdom on Earth instead of Heaven like it clearly states in Revelation 20.
Emphasize: As with the entire Christian world, these are all sincere men, including the ones listed below. But we know that their path is the road to betrayal and the persecution of God’s people. Prophecy tells us this, and it is in this sense that we as a people can no longer afford to remain in a state of prophetic denial or remain silent.
For many of us today, it is easy to argue that these Evangelical leaders are sincere, and all that matters is that they are leading people to accept Christ as their personal Savior. All that matters is that they are leading thousands, yea millions, toward a saving relationship with Christ.
But Judas had a relationship with Christ. He had an intimate discipleship experience with Christ (with God in the flesh!) for 3 ½ years. If Christ desperately sought to wake them up to the seeds of deception shaping their worldview—their view of God’s kingdom—is it no less of a calling for us in these last days? Has not God called you and I—the Seventh-day Adventist Church—for such a time as this?
Today’s Worldview, the Disciples’ Worldview
Furthermore, in addition to seeking national and moral revival (which s good in and of itself), it is this eschatological foundation, this worldview that they were raised with in their evangelical up-bringing, that motivates these men to seek the control of the U.S. government—the lone super power providentially and prophetically chosen by God—in order to unite all the nations and usher the world into a 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ on Earth. In the end, to quibble over whether Christ’s coming is before or after this 1,000 year prophetic millennial period becomes rather insignificant, and thus why Evangelical leaders (Protestants, Pentecostals, evangelical Catholics, both liberals and conservatives) are uniting on the basis of shared social, cultural, and moral values.
This was true of the disciples as well. Their worldview, so to speak, was so thoroughly shaped by the rabbis and their erroneous interpretation of the Scriptures pertaining to the Messianic kingdom, that they had a hard time accepting what Christ was continually sharing with them about the nature of His kingdom. This is why Christ desperately sought, for one final time during the last supper in the upper room, to help His disciples understand that His kingdom was not an earthly one, but a heavenly one in which entrance required letting Him reign in their hearts and lives.
“The influence of their early training, the teaching of the rabbis, the power of tradition [and the media propaganda mill of their day] still intercepted their view of truth. From time to time precious rays of light from Jesus shone upon them, yet often they were like men groping among shadows” (The Desire of Ages, page 412). The disciples had been prejudiced since birth to believe in an earthly kingdom called Zion, with a political savior sent from heaven whom they equated with being the true “Messiah.” But was this a valid excuse?
Remember, throughout His ministry, it was Christ who prayed for His disciples as He sought to instruct them plainly as to the true nature of His mission—that it was sacrificial and eternal, not political, earthly, and fleeting.
The Desire of Ages, p. 379: “The disciples’ long cherished hopes, based on a popular [i.e., political and theological] delusion, were disappointed in a most humiliating manner. . . . It was painful to Jesus that their conceptions of His kingdom were limited to worldly honor. For them the burden was heavy upon His heart, and He poured out His supplications with bitter agony and tears.”
The Great Controversy, p. 594: Here is a key parallel and the answer as to whether the disciples had a responsibility to know, and whether our fellow brothers and sisters in the evangelical world have a responsibility to know:
“Before His crucifixion the Saviour explained to His disciples that He was to be put to death and to rise again from the tomb, and angels were present to impress His words on minds and hearts. But the disciples were looking for temporal deliverance from the Roman yoke, and they could not tolerate the thought that He in whom all their hopes centered should suffer such an ignominious death. The words which they needed to remember were banished from their minds; and when the time of trial came, it found them unprepared. The death of Jesus as fully destroyed their hopes as if He had not forewarned them. So in the prophecies the future is opened before us as plainly as it was opened to the disciples by the words of Christ. The events connected with the close of probation and the work of preparation for the time of trouble, are clearly presented. But multitudes have no more understanding of these important truths than if they had never been revealed. Satan watches to catch away every impression that would make them wise unto salvation, and the time of trouble will find them unready.
“When God sends to men warnings so important that they are represented as proclaimed by holy angels flying in the midst of heaven, He requires every person endowed with reasoning powers to heed the message. The fearful judgments denounced against the worship of the beast and his image (Revelation 14:9-11), should lead all to a diligent study of the prophecies to learn what the mark of the beast is, and how they are to avoid receiving it. But the masses of the people turn away their ears from hearing the truth and are turned unto fables. The apostle Paul declared, looking down to the last days: ‘The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.’ 2 Timothy 4:3. That time has fully come. The multitudes do not want Bible truth, because it interferes with the desires of the sinful, world-loving heart; and Satan supplies the deceptions which they love.”
Friends, the essence of the Third Angel’s Message (Revelation 14:6-12) in these last days prior to Christ’s coming is two-fold: 1) We are saved through Jesus Christ alone and not through any man-made means to save ourselves, no matter how seemingly moral or noble the cause; and 2) the true nature of Christ’s kingdom, which is absolutely vital to understand in order to help our nation and the world to not be deceived by Satan and religious and political leaders. Remember, it is Satan who comes as an angel of light and truth; not as a secular humanist or atheist.
Christ’s prayer is that His chosen people will, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, wake up as His disciples finally did in the upper room during the Day of Pentecost and—for such a time as this (Earth’s 11th hour)—proclaim the true nature of Christ’s kingdom to our nation and to the world!
Absolute Power: the Holy Grail of Dominionists (a natural transition, but optional material)
As Seventh-day Adventist Christians we believe in championing traditional moral values, but not as a means to secure political power. “Now, as in Christ’s day, the work of God’s kingdom lies not with those who are clamor-ing for recognition and support by earthly rulers and human laws, but with those who are declaring to the people in His name those spiritual truths that will work in the receivers the experience of Paul: ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ Gal. 2:20” (The Desire of Ages, page 509).
However, in recent years many evangelical and Catholic leaders have made it clear that their objective is to advance the Kingdom of God through political means and the force of law. We can no longer afford to ignore this.
While there are varying levels and degrees of this movement, evidence is mounting that the far right of today’s evangelical movement has a plan to impose biblical law on every aspect of American society and some are calling it “Dominionism.” What makes this movement so persuasive to so many undiscerning followers is the apparent uprightness of its goals. This is because it identifies with many of the moral values that we share, making it difficult to discern its real danger. Here’s how.
Encouraged by their popular following on radio and television, both politically and religiously motivated Dominionists are challenging America’s well-researched and articulated constitutional history. Since the late 1980’s, beginning with the widely sold video and DVD productions pioneered by David Barton of Wallbuilders, Inc.—and advocated by very powerful and persuasive spin doctors like Newt Gingrich, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Judge Roy Moore, and Attorney Jay Sekulow—they have been enormously successful at hoodwinking the American public. By blurring the distinction between the Puritan and Constitutional founding periods, they have caused many to believe that the United States Government was specifically intended by our nation’s Founders to be literally constituted on the basis of Christianity and Scriptural commands.
At the heart of this revolutionary tactic is the desire for extraordinary political power, not an objective pursuit of truth. An honest examination of history will not advance their interests. Instead, they are subtly rewriting the country’s constitutional history in the minds and hearts of the American people. They hope by reinterpreting and rewriting the Constitution to establish the Christian Constitution and Christian State, or Government, they have always cherished. Recognizing that they may end up falling short of rewriting the Constitution, they have even contemplated what it would take to influence “We the people” to abolish it altogether in a special edition of Richard John Neuhaus’ First Things journal (a leading Catholic journal) back in 1996.
How tempting it must be for this movement to follow in the historic path of Papal Rome—“a church that controlled the power of the state and employed it to further her own ends”—right at a time when America is the uncontested Superpower of the world (see The Great Controversy, page 443). Combine this with the fact that our nation’s presidents are increasingly seeking the guidance of popes and prelates on domestic as well as foreign policy matters—the real experts in Dominionism—and we can no longer remain in a state of prophetic denial. Based on Revelation 13:11-15, today’s ecumenical convergence between evangelical–Protestant–America and Rome confirms what our church has taught for over a hundred years: “In order for the United States to form an image of the beast (i.e., in the historic path or model of Papal Rome), the religious power must so control the civil government that the authority of the state will also be employed by the church to accomplish her own ends” (ibid.).
Add to this the charismatic element—a misleading ecumenical revival that shelves doctrinal differences for the sake of uniting Evangelicals and Catholics on the basis of shared social, political, and moral values, and likewise rallies political liberals and conservatives around commonly shared civil-religious themes and symbols, particularly during times of national crises and disasters—and it is fairly easy to see that secular humanists and atheists are not destined to win the Culture Wars of the twenty-first century. It is high-time that we woke up to this encroaching reality.
Key Religious Leaders and Personalities (optional)
The Religious Right
Pastor D. James Kennedy—Coral Ridge Ministries, Florida
“Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighbors, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors—in short, over every aspect and institution of human society” (“The Rise of Dominionism and the Christian Right,” by John W. Whitehead, President, Rutherford Institute, Liberty magazine, July/August 2006).
Rev. Pat Robertson—Founder and President, Regent University
“God’s plan is for His people, ladies and gentlemen, to take dominion…. What is dominion? Well, dominion is Lordship. He wants His people to reign and rule with Him…but He’s waiting for us to…extend His dominion…. And the Lord says, ‘I’m going to let you redeem society. There’ll be a reformation…. We are not going to stand for those coercive utopians in the Supreme Court and in Washington ruling over us any more. We’re not gonna stand for it. We are going to say, ‘we want freedom in this country, and we want power” (“The Rise of Dominionism and the Christian Right,” by John W. Whitehead, President, Rutherford Institute, Liberty magazine, July/August 2006).
Rev. Jerry Falwell—Founder and President, Liberty University
“Dr. Francis Schaeffer often spoke of ‘co-belligerents’ working together for the greater good. In the cause of saving the family, I would hope that pro-family Catholics, mainline Protestants, evangelicals, charismatics, and others would join hands with secularists who may share our family values…. We must mobilize millions of pro-family Americans into an unbeatable voting bloc that will change the make-up of city councils, school boards, State Legislatures, the Congress, the White House, and the Judicial system. We have the numbers and the power to do it…. This influence must be unified, mobilized, informed, and sent out. Parents and pastors must be the change agents who make all this happen. We must force governments to do what is right” (The New American Family: The Rebirth of the American Dream).
Dr. James Dobson—Founder and CEO, Focus On the Family
“The enemies of morality will not stop and will not back off. The Left cannot and will not change…. If the Democrats in the Senate try again to usurp the President’s constitutional authority by filibustering, there will be a battle of enormous proportions from sea to shining sea” (“The Rise of Dominionism and the Christian Right,” by John W. Whitehead, President, Rutherford Institute, Liberty magazine, July/August 2006).
Ryan Dobson—According to the January 1st, 2007, issue of Economist magazine, Ryan Dobson, son of Dr. James Dobson, has published a new book entitled Be Intolerant. It encourages Americans, specifically Christians, to call sin by its right name and to quit being so tolerant of sinful lifestyles and behaviors.
While on one hand we can applaud such a book, its title suggests a militancy that is at odds with Christ’s approach to such matters. This is because absolute power in a political and earthly sense is not what He encouraged while He was with His disciples. Morality for morality’s sake is one thing, but using moral issues to secure political power is another. The example of Judas makes this abundantly clear.
The Religious Left
Jim Wallis—Convener of Call to Renewal, Founder of Sojourners, Editor of Sojourners magazine, and author of the 2005 national bestseller, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It: A New Vision for Faith and Politics in America.
Lest you think that the religious left is powerless in this country, we must remember that it was the religious left, led by Jim Wallis, author of God’s Politics, that led an electoral revolution during the 2006 Congressional election, returning Democrats to power in the United States Congress, state governorships, and state legislatures. He is the one who influenced Pastor Rick Warren and Ralph Reed to look at a more moderate approach to governing from the middle. Speaking in churches, auditoriums, stadiums, schools, civic functions, etc., he influenced millions in Middle America to demand that legislators focus more attention on issues such as global warming, AIDS, universal health care, and addressing moral and economic poverty in America and the world, instead of just the more narrow issues of abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, and euthanasia. More specifically, however, he has been the chief advocate of Faith Based Initiatives, or Charitable Choice, and sees no problem with a neutral or watered down form of government sponsored prayer in public schools. He truly has been a frustrating power house for leaders of the Religious Right to figure out, because he too is against abortion and gay marriage. He’s done more to challenge the extremism of the religious right and in turn has been the most instrumental in bringing the religious left and right—particularly the voting public—together on common ground. This makes this movement an even more dangerous prophetic phenomenon because it brings the greatest numbers (forces) to bear from the public when it comes to their legislative demands.
Yesterday’s Religious Right
Lessons From Rejecting Christ — Will We Ever Learn?
key quotes & prophetic parallels (optional)
“Today in the religious world there are multitudes who are working for the establishment of the kingdom of Christ as an earthly dominion. They desire to make our Lord the ruler of the kingdoms of this world, the ruler in its courts and [military] camps, its legislative halls, its palaces and market places. They expect Him to rule through legal enactments, enforced by human authority. Since Christ is not now here in person, they themselves will undertake to act in His stead, to execute the laws of His kingdom. The establishment of such a kingdom is what the Jews desired in the days of Christ. They would have received Jesus had He been willing to establish a temporal dominion, to enforce what they regarded as the laws of God, and to make them the expositors of His will and the agents of His authority. But He said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ John 18:36.” (The Desire of Ages, 509)
“They will force men to comply with their ideas of what is right. This is what the Jews did in the days of Christ and what the church has done ever since whenever she has lost the grace of Christ. Finding herself destitute of the power of love, she has reached out for the strong arm of the state to enforce her dogmas and execute her decrees. Here is the secret of all religious laws that have ever been enacted, and the secret of all persecution from the days of Abel to our own time.” (Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 126)
“In order for the United States to form an image of the beast (in the likeness of Papal Rome), the religious power must so control the civil government that the authority of the state will also be employed by the church to accomplish her own ends.” (The Great Controversy, 443)
“To secure popularity and patronage, legislators will yield to the demand for a Sunday law” (Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 451). When? We don’t know and there does not seem to be any movement on this front at the present moment. But these other gathering developments that we have been discussing are some important indicative trends—religiously, politically, and constitutionally.
The Military Factor (optional material for constructing the sermon to fit your needs)
While America’s global war on terror and the forced advancement of democratization in the Muslim world since 9/11 may open up the heartlands of Islam to Christianity, the most important question to ask is: “Which gospel will be preached, whose kingdom promoted?” Are we all striving for the same kingdom, or is it possible that much of the religious and political world—made up mostly of Muslims and Christians—are preparing to receive a counterfeit savior and a kingdom of their own making?
The Gospel is advancing on the heels of the American military, and whether or not military or other forms of force are effective in the spread of democracy, their use is foreign to the spirit of the Gospel. Only one Gospel is consistent with Christ’s declaration: “My Kingdom is not of this world. If My Kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My Kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). Christ’s Gospel, Christ’s millennial Kingdom, is Heaven-based (see Revelation 20). Yet another, more popular, gospel proclaims that the millennial kingdom of God will be established on Earth. (Its adherents are also the same ones most adamant about tearing down the constitutional principle of the separation between church and state.)
Those proclaiming this popular gospel are among the most ardent supporters of American unilateralism and the expanded use of military power throughout the world. As Andrew Bacevich, Director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University argues, American militarism emerged as a reaction by “various groups in American society—soldiers, politicians (Democrats as much as Republicans), intellectuals, strategists, Christian evangelicals, even purveyors of pop culture, as the antidote to all the ills besetting the country as a consequence of Vietnam and the ‘60s.”
But, he contends—and rather convincingly—of this group the most significant contribution to the rise of the new American spirit of militarism has come from evangelicals and their passion-driven vision for establishing Christ’s Kingdom on Earth: “Conservative Christians have conferred a presumptive moral palatability on any occasion on which the United States resorts to force. They have fostered among the legions of believing Amer-icans a predisposition to see U.S. military power as inherently good, perhaps even a necessary adjunct to the accomplishment of Christ’s saving mission on earth. In doing so, they have nurtured the preconditions that have enabled the American infatuation with military power to flourish. Put another way, were it not for the supp-ort offered by several tens of millions of evangelicals, militarism in this deeply and genuinely religious country becomes inconceivable” (Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, Oxford University Press, 2005, book jacket and p. 146. See specifically chap. 5, pp. 122-146).
- Appeal, Why an “experience” with Christ was not enough for Judas, and why it is not enough for us
- Optional Opening Illustration—Napoleon on Christ
- Optional Closing Illustration—Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”
Appeal: Why An Experience with Christ is Not Enough (optional material to fit your needs)
The life of Christ is full of important parallels for the times we are living in. I believe that understanding today’s religious, political, and constitutional (i.e., prophetic) trends in the light of Christ’s life is vitally important—not just as a means of information gathering, but for personal awareness, discernment, and spiritual renewal.
Without being rooted and grounded in God’s Word, our so-called “experience” can lead us astray. Remember, Judas was intimately connected to Christ for 3 ½ years. He traveled on foot for many miles with Him, camped out with Him, and shared all the joys and miracles of ministry experience with Him. And yet a common tool of Satan is to get us, as he did Judas, to think we are doing the Lord’s will when, in fact, we may not be. It’s called “self-deception,” relying on our own impressions and impassioned political prejudices instead of the revealed prophetic Word (the “big picture”). “In fact, a time is coming,” Jesus said, “when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or Me” (John 16: 2, 3).
So much for those who profess to have an relationship with Jesus Christ, but by their words and actions minimize the importance of God’s revealed prophetic Word in their lives—“having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5)! Jesus said that He does not know them (Matthew 7:21-23) because they have “not” truly “known the Father or Me.”
As a member of the band of disciples that traveled with Christ for 3 ½ years on a daily basis, Judas could certainly claim to have had a relationship and experience with Christ. But friends, this was not enough, and it cannot be enough for us! As with Judas, a professed experience with the Lord that slowly but imperceptibly minimizes, denies, and rejects the truths of God’s revealed prophetic Word over time—a saving knowledge, if you will—is like riding on a ship without a compass, a stern, and a captain’s wheel!
Some may argue that you need none of these tools as long as Christ is steering the ship. But friends, it is Christ who has given us the tools found in His Word. The Scriptures tell us in Hosea 4:6 that “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you.” Jesus uses the knowledge from God’s Word to teach us, to guide us to Himself so that we will be saved from ourselves—from self-deception and bad judgment. You cannot logically disconnect a saving relationship with Jesus Christ from having a saving knowledge of God’s Word.
However, today many Christians have become warm, cozy, comfortable, and lazy, and thus almost Biblically illiterate as a result of the immensely popular, but worn out, slogan used by evangelical preachers who titillate our ears with the declaration that it is “Who you know” that counts, and not “what you know.” This is a half-truth, and in reality perpetuates a myth that has caused many evangelical Christians to view the once vaunted reputation of being a “Bible-student” as unpopular and a thing of the past. The reason why this slogan is a half-truth, is because a truly saving relationship with Christ will not lead you to minimize the importance of the responsibility of studying and knowing God’s Word and His prophecies for yourself. Instead, a saving relationship with Jesus will cause those who are truly converted to seek to do everything possible to not be deceived so that others may be lovingly warned and undeceived.
Those undiscerning voices who stir the political passions of the soul in their effort to build a so-called righteous nation and kingdom on Earth is only one of a host of masterful deceptions that Satan has calculated to lead you, me, our nation, and the world astray. Satan will get us anyway he can. As with Judas, “so do all who cherish evil under a profession of godliness hate those who disturb their peace by condemning their course of sin” (The Great Controversy, page 44).
Many evangelical preachers have unwittingly convinced their followers to empty their minds and that all they need is to have an experience with God. But most of them don’t have any clear definition of what it means to have an experience with God. Most of them are left to define and describe it as a feeling of goodness, leading their listeners to a never, never, “La La Land!” To an experience that has no true meaning! Indeed, this is a sign that the New Age Movement has infiltrated the Christian Church and the presentation of the Gospel.
My friends, a saving relationship with Christ will cause you to hunger and thirst after righteousness and a knowledge of the revealed Word of God, seeking and studying it as for hidden treasure like never before! It will not cause you to minimize its importance. God’s Word, if accepted into the heart as instruction from God Himself, is life-changing and will prepare you for a truly deep and saving relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship that will continue to grow and last throughout eternity! To minimize, deny, and eventually reject God’s revealed Word (His prophecies) by our attitude, our words, and our actions, is to actually minimize, deny, and reject Jesus Christ Himself and from letting him steer the wheel of your ship! Do not let anyone ever convince you otherwise! Such preachers and teachers, I believe, are false prophets and do not understand the truth—do not understand what it means to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ—and are misled by the eloquence of their own voices.
When the Third Angel’s Message—the message for these last days—is neglected from Sabbath to Sabbath in our pulpits and in our Sabbath Schools, we are in danger of becoming just another evangelical church. We are in danger of falling asleep because of our neglect, and slowly but imperceptibly becoming intolerant of the straight testimony of God’s prophetic Word—and right at a time when Jesus has called us for such a time as this, to explain to the world the beautiful essence of Christ’s message through the Third Angel of Revelation. What are we doing, Church? We must wake up and be faithful to our calling in these last days! There must be a revival in our midst for a daily personal study of the Word of God! For a personal proclamation of the Word of God in our daily witness to our friends, neighbors, and co-workers! Time is not on our side. Friends, Jesus is coming so very soon! Certainly we can see that?
Optional Opening Illustration
Emperor Napoleon On Christ
“No one will accuse the first Napoleon of being either a pietist or weak-minded. He strode the world in his day like a Colossus, a man of gigantic intellect, however worthless and depraved in moral sense. Conversing one day, at St. Helena, as his custom was, about the great men of antiquity, and comparing himself with them, he suddenly turned round to one of his suite [generals] and asked him, ‘Can you tell me who Jesus Christ was?’ The officer owned that he had not yet taken much thought of such things. ‘Well, then,’ said Napoleon, ‘I will tell you.’ He then compared Christ with himself, and with the heroes of antiquity, and showed how Jesus far surpassed them. ‘I think I understand somewhat of human nature,’ he continued, ‘and I tell you all these were men, and I am a man, but not one is like Him; Jesus Christ was more than man. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded great empires; but upon what did the creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions would die for Him. . . . Jesus Christ has but one aim—the spiritual perfection of the individual, the purification of his conscience, his union with what is true, the salvation of his soul. Men wonder at the conquests of Alexander, but here is a conqueror who draws men to Himself for their highest good; who unites to Himself, incorporates into Himself, not a nation, but the whole human race’” (Cunningham Geike, The Life and Words of Christ , p. 3)!
Optional Opening or Closing Illustration
Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” Painting
“An unconfirmed story has it that just before Leonardo da Vinci commenced work on his “Last Supper” he had a violent quarrel with a fellow painter. So enraged and bitter was Leonardo that he determined to paint the face of his enemy, the other artist, into the face of Judas, and thus take his revenge and vent his spleen by handing the man down in infamy and scorn to succeeding generations. The face of Judas was therefore one of the first that he finished, and everyone could easily recognize it as the face of the painter with whom he had quarreled.
“But when he came to paint the face of Christ, he could make no progress. Something seemed to be baffling him, holding him back, and frustrating his best efforts. At length he came to the conclusion that the thing which was checking and frustrating him was the fact that he had painted his enemy into the face of Judas. He therefore painted out the face of Judas and commenced anew on the face of Jesus, and this time with the success which the ages have acclaimed.
“You cannot at one and the same time be painting the features of Christ into your own life, and painting another face with the colors of enmity and hatred” (Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, #1767).
Let’s face it, “if it weren’t for Judas, we’d never know how Jesus would have treated a grasping, conniving, selfish, ladder-climbing, greedy, covetous, critical, corrupt, opportunistic colleague. Without Judas we’d have no clue how to deal with such tacks in our own souls, such nasty grace-builders!” ( "Judas Up Close” by Carolyn Byers, Adventist Review, Crosswalk Edition, Oct. 16, 2006, p. 22.)